Anthony Pettis punches Jim Miller in their lightweight bout

While not as famous as the Diaz brothers, Anthony Pettis and Sergio Pettis are stars in their own right. The elder was the WEC and UFC lightweight champion and among the most recognizable faces in the sport. The younger brother rests among the top five in his division with quality wins to boot. One is more of a finisher while the other specializes in claiming decision victories via striking.

These brothers are more similar than you think. And the differences are in places you wouldn’t expect.

The Pettis brothers have the same boxing, but different power

If I asked you which Pettis brother is the better boxer, you’d say Sergio. Anthony gets overwhelmed without his kicks while Sergio regularly wins punching exchanges. Who can forget Dustin Poirier wilding on Anthony while Sergio boxed up John Moraga?

In reality, however, their boxing is almost identical.

Both are great at avoiding danger with footwork but terrible at preemptive head movement. Their punching exchanges involve planted feet and combination punching, relying on their technique to overcome defensive lapses. So why does Sergio do so much better? Well, it’s the weight difference.

As you climb weight classes, the ability to dish punishment outstrips the ability to absorb it. Despite being the same weight, heavyweights can knock each other out with a gentle wave. Meanwhile, flyweights frequently endure brutal slugfests that go the distance.

The brothers are both relatively soft-handed in respect to their divisions. At lightweight, Anthony can’t put enough power on his punches to compensate for the strikes he eats in return. This is not helped by lightweight being a division full of athletic freaks. Sergio eats punches in exchanges but has out-struck his opponents even in his losses.

Anthony Pettis looks on in his fight for the UFC Interim Featherweight Title with Max Holloway
Anthony Pettis looks on in his fight for the UFC Interim Featherweight Title with Max Holloway
(Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images North America)

Explosiveness vs. Volume

There’s no question that Anthony is the harder hitter; it would be ridiculous to expect a flyweight to compete. But his more impressive highlight reel isn’t solely because of his power advantage; he’s a better submission fighter as well. No, it’s because Anthony is explosive.

This is obvious in his striking; the man’s highlight reel speaks for itself. Who can forget his liver-pulverizing knockout over Donald Cerrone? Or his decapitation of Joe Lauzon? These are blows that Sergio is incapable of dealing because he doesn’t commit to a single shot. His kicks score points and, on occasion, stop the opponent in their tracks but he can’t clobber an opponent out of nowhere like Anthony can.

The difference is even more pronounced on the ground. Sergio Pettis is no slouch, overwhelmed only by Henry Cejudo and bantamweights (against whom he was undersized). But Anthony Pettis is so fast that he can lock up submissions seemingly out of nowhere. His ability to blur set-up, pressure, and finish into a single sequence is reminiscent of submission phenom Shinya Aoki.

Let me put it this way.

Let’s pretend that you’re at a house party with the Pettis brothers (your worst enemies) and you soil your pants on camera. Sergio will gently tease you about it over the years until it wounds your soul, but Anthony will blow it up on a banner and hang it over the town square.

Sergio Pettis kicks Matt Hobar
Sergio Pettis kicks Matt Hobar (Alex Trautwig/Getty Images North America)

Chin with seniority

Anthony Pettis may lose out on punching exchanges, but he’s never stayed down from a head shot. Dustin Poirier repeatedly walked down and tagged Anthony with clean, heavy shots. But despite being rocked, Anthony didn’t stop swinging once. He just stared Poirier down and fired his combinations, surprising the Louisiana native on several occasions.

Sergio Pettis won’t go down to just any shot, but he’s lost two fights he was winning because he was caught by one clean strike. He also recovers slower than his brother, who can shrug off damage like a bad haircut. That’s not to say he’s chinny; he’s stood and traded with the flyweight best. It’s just proof that Anthony’s chin is severely underappreciated.

They’re brothers, they’re Roufusport products, and they’re fantastic athletes but they are not the same. Anthony is a genius drowning in the world’s most brutal weight class. Sergio isn’t the prodigy his brother is, but he performs at a consistently high level and his defense can’t be exploited as easily.

With many years ahead of them, it’ll be fun to see where the brothers end up next.

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